Last Update: 28 Mar 2021
5. Labor: The Augean Stables
As the fifth labor, Heracles was required to cleanse the stables of Augeias all by himself within a single day. It is said that these stables had not been cleaned for over thirty years.
Augeas was a king of Elis, in southern Greece. His father, the sun god Helios, endowed him with many herds, but unfortunately there were too many herds and the dung threatened the city with disease.
So Heracles went to the king and offered to remove the waste if only he would be given a tithe of his livestock. Augeas gave his word.
The hero completed the task very quickly thanks to the following technique: he cut a breach in the foundation of the wall that surrounded the courtyard. Then he diverted the course of two rivers that flowed nearby, Alpheios and Peneios, and led the water into the courtyard.
But when Augeas found out that Heracles was acting on behalf of Eurystheus, he refused to pay the reward, claiming that he had never made a promise. So the matter had to be brought to court, where Phyleus, the son of Augeas, testified against his father. When Augeas heard this, he became so enraged that he chased both Heracles and his son out of his kingdom.
Later, Heracles took revenge. He returned to the city with an army, conquered the city, and eventually killed Augeas and put his son Phyleus on the throne.
However, back in Mycenae, Eurystheus decided to disregard the work, as Heracles was paid for the task.